How Does Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Work?

Spinal decompression is a non-surgical alternative to treating back pain. This conservative treatment is often recommended prior to surgical spinal decompression, which is considered a last resort if chronic pain persists. 

Like the surgical option, spinal decompression therapy is done to alleviate chronic symptoms such as pain, tingling, weakness, and numbness caused by slipped discs, among other spinal issues. 

During a spinal decompression therapy, the spine is stretched using a motorized device. The goal of the treatment is to elongate the spine in order to provide some relief to the affected nerves along the spine. Although non-surgical in nature, it uses the same theory as surgical spinal decompression as a way of relieving pressure on the discs and encouraging healing by putting pressure on the lower discs. 

What To Expect

During a spinal decompression therapy session, the chiropractor will ask you to lie down on a motorized table or similar device. A harness will be placed around your hips, which will be attached to the table. The torso will remain on the table, while the lower half of the table slowly adjusts to stretch and bring relief to your spine. 

Depending on the pain and the treatment plan, some patients will be asked to either lie on their stomach or on their back for optimal results. 

Treatments take anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes. Patients are typically required to attend 20 to 30 sessions over the course of five to seven weeks. Chiropractors might schedule non-surgical spinal decompression therapy alongside other conservative treatment methods to facilitate healing. 

Who Is It For? 

Spinal decompression therapy is usually recommended for patients who are experiencing chronic back pain caused by sciatica. Chiropractors may also recommend spinal decompression therapy to patients with the following symptoms:

  • Disease or injury in the spinal nerve roots
  • Patients with the posterior facet syndrome
  • Patients suffering from degenerative disk disease, herniated disk, or other disk-related problem 
  • Sufferers of sciatica, neck pain, or other related pain caused by bulging disks 

Spinal decompression therapy is a notch below surgical treatments and is usually recommended to patients who have exhausted other non-surgical methods including physical therapy, bracing, and steroid injections. 

If the patient still feels discomfort following these conservative treatments, spinal decompression will likely become a part of the patient’s treatment program.

Contraindications for Spinal Decompression

While spinal decompression therapy is generally safe, this procedure is not ideal for all types of patients. For instance, pregnant women are not allowed to undergo spinal decompression therapy. 

Other patients who are not good candidates for this non-surgical procedure include:

  • Patients with a history of failed back history or have had spinal fusion, successful or otherwise
  • Patients with surgery history and ongoing pain 
  • Patients who have spinal implants including artificial disc 
  • Patients who have a broken vertebrae
  • Patients suffering from diseases including spinal tumor, infection, spondylolisthesis, osteoporosis, and stenosis 

Before undergoing the procedure, the chiropractor will ensure that patients don’t have any pre-existing conditions that affect the integrity of the spine. Only patients with relatively good spine health are ideal candidates for spinal decompression therapy.